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A man of the cloth and the steel he wields

Stapler of the Week: 1938 Ace Pilot Model 404

IMG_7031Found at a Goodwill for $2 a few weeks ago, the Ace Pilot is a simple-looking, but feature-rich stapler.  It has a unique anvil with a flip-up staple splayer rather than a two-position anvil that clicks into the two positions. It also features a ratcheted striker mechanism unique to these chrome Ace staplers, that makes it pretty much impossible to double-feed or jam the stapler. The tension spring is actually a spring steel band that retracts into the striker head like a tape measure, and thus can never be lost.  There’s no provision that allows it to be opened up and used as a tacker, though, oddly.

The last patent number stamped into the bottom (2112941) is claimed by the internet to date this specimen to 1938, but the exact same design is still produced and sold today by Ace.

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Updated: July 29, 2015 — 11:22 am


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  1. Very nice find. It looks nearly new. I’ve always liked those although I never owned one. They look very straight-forward and ready to work without frills and only dependability for years past the life of any PC or electronic gadget (electric staplers included).

  2. I’m loving the new Stapler of the Week feature. As you know, I have a stapler fetish, myself (it’s not a collection). Here on my office desk I have an Ace trio of the Pilot, 102, and Scout. I also have the sexy, sexy Aceliner and 333, but displayed separately, so as not to diminish the older Aces’ all-silver gleam.

    1. Yep, I’ve been on the hunt for a Swingline 333 since seeing one on your Stapler Fetish page. (:

      The Ace’s are my favorite, and the ones I keep on my desk(s). Finally picked up an Aceliner last week, just need a 102 to complete the lineup of classic Ace fasteners. For some reason I see the little “Cadet” models everywhere. Must have been a popular one.

    2. Agreed. An amazing find, worthy of any heightened position on my desk. The Ace 404 is reliable, stylish, and a beast between the sheets (of my paper).

  3. That’s a nice one. You do have outstanding serendipity at your thrifts.

  4. I have one like this–same model number and serial numbers as in your photos–except that the word “ACE” isn’t engraved on the front of the bottom piece. I’ve had it for 40 years (given to me, used, by a relative) and am a bit heartbroken that it seems to be broken. The top circular part is jammed. Any suggestions on how to fix it myself?

    1. Hmmn, most staplers aren’t really meant to be disassembled. Quite a lot of the bits you need to remove to get at the works are permanently riveted together.

      The Ace 404 is a little different in that it has one screw, phillips head, that sits behind the striker and if removed, looks like it might allow access to the ratchet system. I suspect that area is dirty or gummy in yours. If you can get in there, lighter fluid or other non-residue-leaving solvents might do the trick for flushing the dirt/gumminess out.

      good luck! (:

    2. I had the same issue. I accidentally put in the wrong sized staples and they were stuck deep inside the stapler head. They would not slide out. So, I had the idea I would slide them into the stapler even further and then I would hit the round top and try to break them apart or force them out. Of course, the round circular top part that you hit with your hand just jammed. What I ended up doing was getting a rubber mallet so I could strike the top even harder to break the jammed staplers. That did the trick! I had to break about 10 staples one at a time. I hit the top part with the mallet it would break one staple and then I’d slide another staple in further along the track, hit the top of the handle with the rubber mallet and break that staple and then continue. After about 10 staples, all the “wrong” sized staples were out and I was able to reload the stapler with the correct ones and now it works perfect again.

  5. I have had a 404 for 30 years, my boss back then, gave it to me to use and it has followed me. Did not realize it was how old was. Works great.

  6. I just picked one of these up for fifty cents. The arm and striker assembly can be removed from the base to be used as a tacker, although it would be a two handed process.

  7. magkano po ang isang piraso? at kung bibili po ako pwdi po bang limang piraso muna gusto kulang pong subokan muna?

  8. where can i buy this product

    1. The container store carries these. :)

  9. I have pilot 404 model In 7 grade, I am 70 ,so you see I had this long time. thanks making an excellent stapler.

  10. I wish i will have this one ace pilot staple im looking for this one.
    Please where can i get this one.thanks

    1. I found this at antique store yesterday. I was so happy and excited own this. It was $18 without tax.
      This is works like magic. Can not compare with modern staplers.
      You might look for it at antique store near you.
      Good luck.

  11. Otitis a Pilot, the staple bed and head remove easily from the base, without tools. You just haven’t figured out how to do it yet.

  12. I also have an Ace 404 stapler with all the same patent numbers and markings but also like mentioned in an above comment it does not have Ace igraved in the front. I got it at an estate auction with what must have
    ben an entire stapler collection for 16 dolllars. I have alot of odd/cool looking ones and they are all in great working order and look really good. I just started looking at the box with the staplers and had to have them, (I guess I was hooked)! Lol! Any ideas on why some dont have the Ace ingraving? I looked on their website and the new ones they sell all have the egraved Ace.

  13. Just so you know, if you want to use it as a tacker, the stapler mechanism detaches from the base.

    I actually came here looking for an answer for myself. My ace 404 doesn’t hold itself up, so if you want to put papers in it, you have to lift it up.
    I’m pretty sure I figured out the answer, and I think yours probably had the same problem.
    On the base, towards the back, I noticed yours has a nut and bolt, mine has a rivet. I figured for yours, someone took yours apart there, and had to connect it back together. I was wondering why, so while looking, I noticed the metal that rests on the metal piece (sorry hard to describe this since I don’t know any official part names) is bent up from being used a lot probably. I figured yours was taken apart to straighten this out.

  14. Found a 402V (Teak Wood base)in the dump give and take. Quite weathered. Gave it a bath in WD-40. let it set for a week. Blew it out with compressed air, wiped it down and replaced staples with new ones. My little pride and joy for stapling.

  15. Sounds like a reasonable request J.C. Thanks for taking the time and trouble to post all of this information on an obscure topic.


  16. Randall Harold Anderson

    I had quite the scare today, MY 404 started cutting staples. NOW understand I have had this for the full 42 years of my working career, so this was a tragic situation.
    I am somewhat handy, so i removed the screw and low and behold, it did come apart and i was able to correct the cutting issue and did in fact get it back together, Think of that, a repairable device, not many around anymore.

  17. I have this stapler and love it! I inherited from my Mom. I’m having an issue where the top arm doesn’t spring back after stapling. I think it may have something to do with the spring mechanism on the bottom? I’d love to fix it but am not sure how…If I take the top arm off (the part that holds the staples), the bottom pivoting piece seems very tight. Any ideas?

  18. Re: Opening up to use as a tacker. If you pull the entire top are assembly off and hold it by the button, it makes a pretty darn good tacker.

  19. I have a Pilot with the same 6 patent numbers on the bottom. Mine also has NO engraving of ACE on the front. The one difference though is mine has a model number of 402.

    Any information on the manufacturing date or age of this model?


  20. Thankfully this #402 Pilot never made it to the “White Farm” in NH where it may have ended up back in the 1970’s. I recognized it immediately while employed just how perfectly it performed unlike the newer Swingline and other new brands that were replacing the “old stuff “. I promised myself that it would not be “scrapped”. It continues to perform perfectly to this day. Made in USA , made to last !

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